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Hello 2020

I know I’m a few weeks late, but Happy 2020! It was a rough start to the new year in our household with everyone taking turns getting sick so you can say we’ve been preoccupied.

Oh…and I forgot to mention I’m PREGNANT! I had every intention of doing a separate post about announcing my third pregnancy on here, but like I mentioned, life happens. Between getting sick and constantly having “morning” sickness (it’s in quotations because I literally get sick almost all day), I’ve pretty much been struggling to function. So instead of a pregnancy announcement post, I’m going to start my year with a “goals & dreams” post.

2020 Goals & Dreams

  • Maintain my healthy lifestyle/ keep up with working out, especially during pregnancy.
  • Post 2 blog posts a month.
  • Pass the DRE Salesperson exam.
  • Have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.
  • Cross off at least two places from our travel bucket-list.
  • Learn healthier, kid-friendly recipes.
  • Actually use the Instant Pot and Filipino Instant Pot cookbook my husband gifted to me.
  • On that note, cook and bake more Filipino food.
  • Monthly date nights with my husband.
  • And with another baby on the way, have more solo dates with each of our kids.

I hope you all are having a great start to the new year. And if you haven’t made goals for yourself for the new year, it’s never too late! There’s no better start than now to accomplishing your dreams.

Til next time friends<3

Farewell 2019: My 2019 Reflection

Can you guys believe there’s only one full day left in 2019? I feel like I’ve said this a million times on my blog, but time is really going by so quickly. I feel like ever since I became a mom, every year has just gone by faster and faster. I can still remember Zayanna’s newborn days like it was yesterday so the fact that she’s already 4 and doing things like a “big kid” just blows my mind.

2019 was a big year for me. When I started the year, I decided to dedicate it solely to me and to my well-being. As a couple, my husband and I like to look forward at the year together so ultimately our goals are always as a couple. For myself, it has always meant putting my husband and his goals first. So coming into 2019, we both agreed – whatever happened in 2019 would mean changes for me.

And that’s exactly what happened.

  • I committed to my first workout program, and managed to make working out part of my daily routine.
  • I was able to change my entire mindset on nutrition all together. And instead of hating healthy food, I’ve learned to love it by making things I enjoy.
  • I became a stay-at-home mom. (It’s something I always wanted but never actually told anyone that it was a goal in life.)
  • I started studying to join my husband in his business. (But don’t think that means I won’t be at home with my kiddos. I’ll just shift to hustle-at-home-mom!)
  • And then there’s the reason you’re reading this… I finally started my blog!

And through all of this, I learned to love myself more. I learned to be nicer to myself. I learned the importance of mental health.

I feel like I accomplished a lot this year, but don’t think it all came easy. With great changes, comes great struggle. In my new roles and routine, I also had to learn balance and how to adjust to new things. And trust me, there’s nothing that drives me crazier than things being out of sync. But I learned to overcome. And I am thankful for every step I had to take to get to where I am today.

And at the root of it all, this year taught me the importance of manifestation and trusting your faith. I firmly believe all my years of manifestation and putting my faith in God, brought me to where I am today. So going into 2020, into the new year, into the new decade, I know exactly where my heart and mind need to be to accomplish what I hope to.


A quick recap of my 2019 through my Top 9 from my Instagram.

For the Love of Ube

Happy December, friends!

Hard to believe 2019 is almost over, but with it being December, we’re just running on the holiday spirit in our household. We’re actually one of those households that starts decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving so we’ve been physically ready for the holidays for a few weeks now. But that doesn’t mean we forget about Thanksgiving. Being the first Filipino-American in my family, I actually take it upon myself to cook up Thanksgiving dinner myself for my entire family.

I like to cook the entire dinner for two reasons:

  1. I LOVE cooking for my family, and Thanksgiving is a good reason to do it.
  2. Because I do the cooking for Thanksgiving, I take away any cooking responsiblities upon myself for Christmas.

By doing #2, I get to solely focus on my favorite past-time during the holidays: baking.

For the month of December, I’m hoping to do a couple of baking related posts. First up…

UBE CUPCAKES

As a Filipino-American, I have to say that ube is probably one of my favorite things about being Filipino. Whenever I meet someone who has never had ube, I instantly become excited to share my love for all things ube.

  • Ube cake
  • Ube pancakes
  • Ube donuts
  • Ube ice cream
  • Ube pan de sal
  • Ube jam*

… I love it all. If it has ube in it, I’m likely an instant fan.

But before I even dive into the recipe, for anyone who is new to the world of ube, it is a pretty purple yam, and basically a staple ingredient in Filipino desserts. Most times, you’ll find ube in desserts in the form of ube jam (or “ube halaya”). So to create my cupcakes, I also had my first attempt making ube jam from scratch, although you can easily purchase ube jam in a jar from your local Asian/Filipino market.

Ingredients for the Ube Cupcakes

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups ube jam*, depending on how sweet your jam is
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ube extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the Ube Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 package (8 oz) of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon ube extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and line your cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. combine then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and oil until well combined. Add in ube jam until smooth.
  4. Add in ube extract, and mix until incorporated in the batter.
  5. With a spatula, mix in dry ingredients from the medium bowl and slowly combine with wet ingredients in the large bowl. Do not overmix.
  6. Scoop batter into liners. About 3/4 full per liner.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

While your cupcakes are baking, make your icing.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sugar, ube extract and vanilla extract until well-combined. If using a mixer, mix on medium speed.
  2. Slowly pour in the heavy cream. And continue whisking until soft peaks form.

*Ube Jam: to make my own ube jam I literally followed the recipe on the back of this ube condensed creamer that I found at the Filipino market.


Now that I’ve attempted my first go on ube jam. I’m hoping to make more ube jam and tackle a few more ube related recipes in the near future. Stay tuned and happy baking!

Never Stop Dating Your Spouse

Welcome back, friends! It has been a busy last couple of weeks in our household between a few Halloween events, a couple of birthdays, and two trips. Now that we’ve settled back into our regular routine, I’m finally able to sit down and gather some thoughts for a new post. 

One of the trips we went on last month was particularly special since it was a date trip for my husband and I to our happy place, Disneyland! Yes that’s right folks, we went on another Disney trip. But this one was special because it was the first time my husband and I had been alone at Disney (a.k.a. no kids, no friends, no family members, etc.) for the first time in 4.5 years. The decision to go on this trip wasn’t planned until about 3 weeks prior, and it was one of the best “last minute” decisions we’ve made in a long time. After going on two big trips with our kids in September, we were exhausted and realized we needed some quality one-on-one time. 

The easy solution would’ve been to do our usual date night. But we decided we needed something bigger. It was time for a date trip.

But why Disneyland again?

While we do make an effort to spend time alone while the girls are at school or at afternoon at grandma’s, we realized that often those moments alone become more “administrative” than romantic. Administrative doesn’t sound like a word you would normally associate with a marriage, but when you have screaming kids around you on the daily, an hour or two alone seems like the perfect time to talk about your finances, problems with the kids, or responsibilities around the house. Instead of being on a date, our short dates away from the kids sometimes become more like “meetings”

So when deciding to go somewhere for a quick date trip, we decided on Disneyland, again. Other than taking advantage of being annual passholders, we chose to go to Disney again because it was one of our favorite places to go pre-kids. If there’s one thing that keeps the romance alive in our marriage, it’s definitely acting like kids together. And what better place to do that than the happiest place on earth? 

We knew that by going to Disneyland we would truly enjoy each other’s time. And we definitely did. We rode all the things, we ate all the things, and we took our time doing whatever we wanted to do. We even did things we’ve never done before! It also happened to be the weekend before my birthday so it was the perfect birthday treat. 

We learned something BIG from this trip.

After being away from our girls for 2 nights, we realized that they really are our biggest stressors. We did not fight or bicker once during the trip. No nagging, no snarky comments, no bickering, NOTHING. Without the girls there, we were able to just be “us”.

Safe to say we left Disneyland feeling refreshed and more in love. Not that you ever really stop loving your spouse when the kids are around, but it’s hard to keep focus on your marriage when your kids are always your biggest concern.

Coming home from a date trip, I know our girls could feel the shift in our energy. And what I noticed is that when the kids have happy parents, they are happier little human-beings themselves. It was a win-win all around.


If you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend going on date trips with your spouse. And if you already go on trips regularly with your significant other, I’d love to know where your favorite date places have been. To see more from our date trip, be sure to check out our vlog over at @LivNGwiththeNGs.


Til next time, friends!

A Letter To My Daughter On Her 29th Birthday

I turned 29 a few days ago. Not much excitement comes to mind when you tell someone you’re 29. For the most part, you start your countdown to 30. I’m actually one of the last of my friends to hit this age so sometimes I feel like I’ve been this age for awhile now. Honestly to me, age really is nothing but a number. But with this being my last year of my 20’s, I do feel like there are some thoughts I’d like to share, especially to my daughters. While they have many years until this day comes, there are just some things I want to make sure they don’t forget…


To my daughter on her 29th birthday,

Today is your 29th birthday. You’re probably thinking “OMG one more year til 30!” There might be a lot you want to accomplish before then. Or there might be places you want to go to. Or things you want to do. But really, know you are perfectly fine where you are in your life.

Yes, there’s still plenty to do, many places to go, and many things to experience still, but in reality, don’t forget you’ll only be 29 once. Turning 30 seems like a big deal next year, but all those things you are hoping to do will still be there even after you’re 30.

While you know mommy is big on planning ahead, I also want you to focus on YOU now. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Don’t wish you are someone you’re not. Don’t hold grudges against people you love. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t love you for YOU.

Instead focus on YOU. Whether you’re like mommy and married by now, waiting for your boyfriend to propose, or you’re single searching for “the one”, I want your main focus to be YOU. I hope that whatever relationship situation you are in, you are living unapologetically as who God made you to be.

You are smart.

You are kind.

You are thoughtful.

You are creative.

You are brave.

You are beautiful.

You are nothing short of amazing.

Wherever you are in life, I am so proud of you. Keep shining your light baby girl. And know you’ll always be my baby girl.

Love you to the moon & back,

Mommy

We Have a 4-Year-Old

We’ve hit another milestone in our household. Our eldest daughter turned 4 a few days ago. For awhile I actually already thought she was 4, only cause of how articulate she is. But this past Monday it became official. And because she is now at an age where she really understands what birthdays are, we decided to let her call the shots for her birthday weekend. (But let’s be real, for the most part a 4-year-old calling the shots really means giving them choices to choose from).

What kind of requests does a toddler make when turning 4?

1. To eat her favorite Filipino sweet treat.

Our weekend started on Friday with our birthday girl making one simple request and that was to get “purple bread” a.k.a. ube pandesal. This first request was actually one she thought of all on her own. For those of you who don’t know what pandesal is, it is simply a Filipino bread roll, and ube is purple yam. So when my daughter asks for her “purple bread” she is looking for a bread roll filled with ube jam. We headed to our local Filipino bakery and got exactly what she was looking for.

2. To visit her favorite outdoor play area.

The next day we had plans in the evening to watch my mom’s body-building competition so we knew we had to have dinner right before the show. All day Zayanna had been asking to go to the park so we gave her two options for where she can play. This brought us to the new City Center @ Bishop Ranch. Zayanna loves this outdoor play area for it’s they have these giant lego sets out on their fake grass for kids to enjoy.

3. Spend a day in San Francisco.

If there’s one place I know our girl loves, it’s San Francisco. Every time we visit the city, her face lights up at literally everything around her. When she found out it was almost her birthday, she made one request. “Can we go to San Francisco and sleep in a hotel for one night?” Guys, she’s only four. Not sure where she got this idea from, but two things became obvious to me when she asked this question: 1) She must really love hotels, and 2) I was right that she LOVES San Francisco. She loves it enough to want to stay there overnight too. And again, she’s only 4, so we obviously didn’t honor her request.

Instead I gave her a few options: go to the science museum, go to the botanical garden, or go to the carousel + “pretty stairs”. While my husband and I really thought she was going to choose the garden, our little lady chose the last option so we headed to the carousel in Golden Gate Park + the Moraga Steps. It was her first time at the Koret Playground in Golden Gate Park, and I just loved how exciting the new play structure was for both of my daughters. The weather was a cool 65 degrees, the sun was shining, and our big girl was just happy all day long.

We ended the day with surprising her with a dinner with a few of her aunties and uncles. And coming home she knocked out instantly in the car. Definitely a great sign of a successful day in San Francisco.

4. Go to the pumpkin patch.

Like a true October baby, our big girl LOVES all things Fall. So I definitely wasn’t surprised when she chose to go to the pumpkin patch over Chuck E. Cheese. It was the first time our girls played together at the pumpkin patch. And it was our first time exploring in the corn maze. Something about immobile tractors and a pool of corn kernels that screams fun! A Fall season would be incomplete without a trip to the pumpkin patch so I’m definitely glad she wanted to go there for her birthday.

Safe to say our little lady is not a baby anymore. She is so fun, so smart, so caring, and SO brave. I tell my husband all the time that she is literally everything I wish I was as a child. She’s never afraid to say “hey friend, want to play with me?” and she’s always the first one to climb up to the top of the play structure. And don’t get me started on how much she loves her baby sister. The love in her heart warms my heart each and every day. There are definitely days where I can’t handle her attitude or sass, but in reality, who doesn’t have bad days and emotions they can’t control? She really is a little human. And she’s my amazing little human

Happy 4th Birthday babe<3

Fun fact: she used to tell me only her dad was “babe”, but recently I’ve noticed she’ll call her dad or I “babe” too. I guess she’s finally accepted it 🙂

Where to Eat in NYC: A First Timer’s Guide

Anyone who knows my husband and I would tell you that we love to eat. I mean seriously, who doesn’t? One of the things that keeps our relationship together is our mutual love for the same types of food. He always jokes that he only married me because he loves my cooking, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t a joke. I ain’t even mad about it though because food is love. 

Before children, our main objective when visiting new destinations was to always try as much of the local food as possible. And even with children, that is still our objective. I’ll admit it’s harder with kids to try some places without a kids menu or without kid-friendly options, but there are some times where we’re just like “screw it!” If the kids are hungry, they will eat. 

When deciding on where to eat in New York City, I actually did not have trouble choosing places my kids would like. When deciding where to eat I Googled “Where To Eat in NYC for First Timers”, and most of the places I found ended up being kid friendly so it was a total win-win for us foodie parents. 

Quick Eats 

Xian Famous Foods $ (various locations)

Xian Famous Foods came up in almost every list of “Where to Eat in NYC for First Timers”. This fast casual chain serves affordable and delicious Western Chinese Cuisine. Most dishes were under $12, and most dishes are made spicy. I’d say if you’re not into spicy, you’re not getting the true Xian Famous Foods experience. But because our girls aren’t into spicy, we did get the Stir-Fried Liang Pi noodles for them. And for ourselves, we got the Spicy Cumin Hand-Ripped Noodles and the Spicy & Sour Dumplings

Shake Shack $ (various locations)

The Shack + ‘Schrooom Burger = the Shack Stack

You can say Shake Shack is NY’s version of In-N-Out Burger. I’ll admit when we first tried Shake Shack in Chicago, we were not impressed. But seeing how Shake Shack originated in New York, we decided to give it another try in it’s birthplace. This time around, we loved it!  Their menu has classic fast-food items like burgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches, but all of excellent quality. If you’re a fan of crinkle cut fries, they got em. And if you’re a milkshake lover like myself, you’ll be delighted to see how many flavor options they have. 

Ess-A-Bagel $ (Midtown)

“A Signature Favorite”

Out of everything we tried in New York City, this was definitely my favorite. And now I know why people say no other bagel compares to a New York bagel. I had read about many different places to get bagels from in NYC, and Ess-a-Bagel was one that came up on almost every list. When you go here, be prepared to wait. The line is long and can seem intimidating, but the wait will be well worth it. The bagels are freshly made, and they’re big and fluffy. We ordered “A Signature Favorite” a.k.a the lox bagel. What it should be called though is “The Best Lox Bagel You’ll Ever Have”

Sit-Down Meals

Momofuku Noodle Bar $$- $$$ (various locations)

For every trip we make we like to have a least one “nice” meal. For this trip, we choose a Momofuku restaurant because it’s origin traces back to NYC. We specifically choose Momofuku Noodle Bar because 1) the menu really called out to us, and 2) they have a “secret” kids menu. My brother-in-law joined us for this meal so we were a little ambitious with how much we ordered. But everything we tried was absolutely amazing. The shrimp bao, tuna crudo, and pork ramen were my favorites from everything we tried. Be sure to check out their specials menu too, you will not be disappointed. 

Roberta’s Pizza $$ (various locations)

When researching where to eat in NYC, pizza will always be recommended. I had a hard time choosing which pizza spot to try because there really are so many options. But when our NYC native cousin recommended Roberta’s Pizza, I knew this was the one pizza spot we had to try. Like Ess-A-Bagel’s bagel being the best bagel I’ve ever had, I can definitely say Roberta’s is the best pizza I’ve ever had. They must put some magic ingredients in their sauce because we were blown away with the flavors. We ordered two pizzas, a classic margherita pizza and a sausage pizza called the Millenium Falco. The margherita pizza, while so simple, had so much flavor. I’d come back to NYC just for more Roberta’s. 

Maharlika $$ (various locations)

Another must-do on our foodie list when traveling is trying the local Filipino restaurants. While we live in an area with plenty of Filipino food options, I like to try Filipino food when traveling to see what others are doing in other parts of the country. I choose to go to Maharlika after finding them on Instagram. The food item that made me want to go there? The Flip’d Chicken + Ube Waffles. DELICIOUS. If you’re new to Filipino food, I’d say try Filipino staples like pancit bihon, arroz caldo, and silog plates for their more traditional styles and flavors. But if you’re looking for something a little different, definitely try their version of chicken and waffles. They also have a unique and Filipino-themed bar menu as well.

Desserts

Ice Cream from Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream $ (various locations)

Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Van Leeuwan Ice Cream was also recommended by our cousin NYC native cousin. The ice cream is made from scratch in Brooklyn, NY, and you can find both delicious classic and vegan flavors. Even our eldest daughter was in heaven with their vanilla. When we realized how much she liked it, we had to give her vanilla scoop a try ourselves. My chocolate fudge brownie really hit the spot, but the vanilla really is the best vanilla ice cream I’ve ever had.

Cheesecake from Junior’s $ (various locations)

Junior’s is an all-American diner, but what they are known for is their cheesecake. With one location right in Times Square, there is no excuse for you not to try their cheesecake if visiting Times Square is on your itinerary. They have many flavors to choose from so it might seem overwhelming, but I’m sure any flavor is delicious. We were actually tempted to just get the plain cheesecake, but we decided on a slice of the strawberry and blueberry cheesecake. Our only regret is waiting until our last night to make a stop here. 

Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery $ (various locations)

This was a medium.

If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you’re probably going to get more than the banana pudding when visiting Magnolia Bakery. Everything looked too good so I ended up getting the banana pudding plus one of each cookie flavor. If you absolutely love banana pudding, they offer the pudding in various sizes. But because I wanted to try other things, we left with a medium. 

Cookies from Levain Bakery $ (various locations)

When friends heard I was going to go to NYC, Levain Bakery was the one dessert spot that was always recommended.  Like Magnolia Bakery, they are a full-fledged bakery. But instead of the cakes and cupcakes like at Magnolia, you’ll find more breads. What you really want to come here for are the cookies. There are four different cookies, and we left with one of each to try them all. Our favorite ended up being the dark chocolate peanut butter. Crispy on the outside, and gooey in the inside. These cookies are worth the stop, plus they’re huge so definitely shareable.

Tip: If you’re like us and like to bring home food souvenirs for your loved ones, I’d bring home a few of the Levain cookies. The worker that helped us let us know they can last up to a week in the bags they come in.


If you’ve made it this far in the list, thank you! New York City had so many food options to offer, it was a little overwhelming deciding what to try. But for first timers, I think we did a good job knocking off everything on my list. If you’ve tried any of these places or plan to try any of them during your trip to NYC, leave a comment below. Or if you have any recommendations yourself, please share because we will definitely be going back to NYC.


And for more of our food adventure in NYC, be sure to check out our @LivNGwiththeNG‘s vlog 🙂